05/31/2006 11:00PM

Ellis: Declan's Moon 'looks awesome'

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Declan's Moon, champion 2-year-old male of 2004, is nearing a comeback.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A year and three months since he last started, Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, is nearing a comeback, and impressing trainer Ron Ellis with his workouts.

In a career twice interrupted by injury, Declan's Moon has been working steadily in recent weeks at Santa Anita, including a five-furlong work in 59.60 seconds on Thursday. Ellis hopes that Declan's Moon's bad luck is behind him and that he is nearing a memorable comeback later this summer.

"He looks awesome," Ellis said. "He might be a better horse now than before."

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Declan's Moon is unbeaten in five starts. He has not started since winning the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita in March 2005. At 2, Declan's Moon's campaign was highlighted by victories in the Hollywood and Del Mar futurities.

A winner of $627,300, Declan's Moon was sidelined shortly after the Santa Catalina because of a knee injury. He missed the 2005 Triple Crown but returned to training last fall. Declan's Moon had resumed working when a nuclear scan revealed a fracture at the top of his cannon bone. The injury forced him to the sidelines until earlier this year, when he returned to racetrack training.

"I knew he wasn't right when I was training him before and that's why we took him to the nuclear scan," Ellis said.

There have been no interruptions in his recent training, leaving Ellis optimistic about his future. Ellis has yet to target a comeback date, saying that Declan's Moon needs several more workouts.

"He hasn't run in so long," Ellis said. "He's at least five more works away from racing. We're working along pretty steady. I'll think about it when I get a few more works. He's better than his old self, bigger and stronger."

Squallacious a maybe for Oaks

Squallacious remained unbeaten after two starts with an impressive win in a seven-furlong allowance race on Wednesday. Squallacious could come back quickly for the $150,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks on June 11, trainer Mike Puype said on Thursday.

Squallacious was last of five for the first half-mile of Wednesday's seventh race. Jockey Corey Nakatani had Squallacious in traffic behind the pacesetters in early stretch before guiding her to the outside. Once clear, Squallacious quickly gained the lead and pulled clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:22.75.

"It wasn't what she beat, it's how she did it," Puype said. "She's awesome. She saddled like she'd done it 100 times. She's got a great disposition. She's not an ordinary horse.

"I don't think what she did was more than a workout. We'll see how she comes out of it. I wouldn't say we will or won't" go to the Oaks.

Squallacious is owned by Rick Trontz.

The Grade 2 Oaks at 1 1/16 miles will include two stakes winners from this meeting - She's an Eleven, the winner of the Melair Stakes on April 30, and Bettarun Fast, who won the Railbird Stakes on May 6. She's an Eleven returned to finish fifth as the favorite in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 19.

Great Lady M. a Tuzla rematch

The debate about the roughly run Tuzla Stakes on May 12 can end when four of the first five finishers from that race return in Saturday's $75,000 Great Lady M. Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

In the Tuzla, Sandra's Rose won by a head over Danclare, but the stewards conducted a lengthy inquiry into whether they bothered fourth-place Polyfirst in the final strides. It was the sort of call that could have gone either way. In the end, there was no change. Those three fillies and mares return in the Great Lady M., which has drawn a field of seven.

Sandra's Rose may go off favored. Trained by Mike Machowsky for Jess Jackson, Sandra's Rose won her first stakes in the Tuzla. She was handy from the start under jockey Martin Pedroza and just held off Danclare, who rallied from fifth.

In the Great Lady M., Sandra's Rose could face pressure from Starkay, who set the pace in the Tuzla before fading in the final furlong. If the pace is too quick, it will work in favor of Costume Designer and Polyfirst.

Costume Designer returned from a layoff of nearly two months to win an allowance race at 5 1/2 furlongs on May 4.

Polyfirst was beaten a length in the Tuzla, but would have certainly been closer with a better trip. The Tuzla was her first start in 13 months.

"She had been off a long time," said trainer Richard Mandella. "I'm hoping there is something in the race [Saturday] she can settle off of."

Polyfirst, 5, placed in five stakes in France in 2004 before joining Mandella's stable. She has won twice in this country, with both victories coming on Santa Anita's hillside turf course.